Meet the Mini D-MAX
WRITTEN BY: MATT TAYLOR
"CUTE" is not usually a word that’s used to describe the D-MAX X-TERRAIN. But the ute that delivered the match ball for the kick-off at each game of last season’s Isuzu UTE A-League Finals series wasn’t your typical workhorse. For a start, the fact that there was literally nobody behind the wheel did not seem to bother the match officials or players in its path, even as the D-MAX hit full speed. And secondly, the four-wheel-drive in question topped out at around 40km/h and it weighs just 15 kilograms.
A painstakingly hand-built 1/6th replica of the real thing, it’s one of just four in existence. Each was crafted simultaneously by a team of film industry prop veterans over a marathon 10-week period last year—just in time for the pointy end of Australia’s domestic football season. Luckily I've had some experience in the film industry and so the first thing I did was reach out to some people I knew from my stunt driving career. I'd worked with one of the guys (on Mad Max: Fury Road)—he’d built some of the fibreglass boulders that were used for the really, really tight shots when we were driving in the canyon scenes.
Then came issues. Finicky technical ones. The first issue, was determining the X-TERRAIN’s bones. Underneath the fibreglass body of each Mini D-MAX is an Axial SCX6 Rock Crawler Chassis, a popular choice amongst hobbyists. It was a complex process of 3D scanning, but because remote control cars are generally not to scale—typically running far oversized tyres, for example— the story was only beginning. After a great deal of trial and error, CAD manipulation, and swearing, the final version runs 1/10th scale wheels, a 1/6th chassis, and a fibreglass body that is precisely 6.137:1.
Time Was A Factor
There were three guys who basically worked full-time for nine weeks on this project. At the end, the guys in the workshop basically went four days straight with one hour of sleep to make the deadline. I can tell you that they were absolutely cooked afterwards. In order to deliver the models to the finals in time, my team and I drove the Mini D-MAXs from Burleigh Heads to Melbourne personally. It was a close-run thing. We picked up the cars so fresh from the paint shop that the paint was still soft. And because you can’t take their lithium-polymer (LiPo) batteries on a plane, we set the sat-nav to Victoria.
The final result, though, is one that stands up to any inspection—whether you’re a football fan in the nosebleeds, or, well, an extremely detail-obsessed I-Venture Club instructor like myself. I created a 10-page PDF for the guys to explain all the different paint codes on the X-TERRAIN. Contrary to what this might indicate, I'm genuinely lots of fun at parties. For example, there’s a section of the rear step on the ute that’s matte black and other bits that are gloss black, and there’s a dark grey and a light silver, and then there’s the Volcanic Amber. Just to tape up and mask each Mini D-MAX took about six hours of labour per shell!
Overkill, surely? NO! I was determined that it was going to be exactly right! The craziest little detail is, on the sailplane on the back of the D-MAX there are very, very little red decal stickers. The 1/6th scale version has really small and highly detailed decal stickers—they’re about 3mm big. But that detail is there and it's perfect.